For the first year anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday, Lenn suggested we Drink local, Real local. That is definitely not very hard for me to do even here in western Washington state. Woodinville, the home of several wineries including Chateau St. Michelle, is located just a short 10 miles away from my home.
My wine tasting group had a special tasting this month of a small winery in Seattle, Chatter Creek, which is just a tad bit farther (11 miles) than a few of the wineries in Woodinville. I know I'm stretching the rules a little but I decided to highlight this winery for this month’s tasting.
Several members of my wine group happen to know Gordy Rawson, the wine maker/owner of Chatter Creek. He makes his wines in his garage in Seattle and they have been there for tastings. Gordy has been involved in wines for over 20 years including almost 10 years experience at Columbia Winery as Cellarmaster. He started making wines at home and eventually started his own winery in 2000. The Seattle Times had a good piece on Gordy in February 2005. You can also read how he got started at his New York distributor, Voss Selections. Recently he opened a tasting room in Woodinville.
After looking over a list of Chatter Creek wines, we decided on a Rhone themed tasting. Our group was very excited to taste his single vineyard Syrahs side by side. Syrah is a “hot” varietal here in Washington State. The Walla Walla area is especially good as is the area around Yakima. I have always been surprised to find that the Rhone varietals do well here in Washington. I thought Washington was too far north until I compared the latitude of Walla Walla (46 degrees north) to the Rhone valley (43-44 degrees North). The latitude is much more similar than some of the Shiraz areas of Adelaide Australia which are at 34 degrees south.
We started the tasting with the 2004 Viognier ($15). A great summer wine with floral tones and the flavor of a crisp apple. Next we tried the 2004 Grenache. It is light in color and body but with good fruit and strawberry flavors typical of a Grenache. Another good sip for the summer.
Both wines were perfect warm ups for the three single vineyard Syrah wines. We started with the Lonesome Spring Ranch 2002 Syrah. The vineyard is located in the lower part of Yakima valley in a warmer region of the valley. This wine got good marks in the June 2005 New York Times tasting of Washington State Syrahs. It had good fruit but not as much spice as I like in a Syrah. It would be good choice if I wanted a more fruity flavored Syrah. Notes from the winery:
This was vintage that produced very concentrated fruit. The wine shows this with its deep purple, hugely extracted color. Blackberry, Sage, and white pepper creep out on this somewhat shy nose, opening with time in the glass. Racy acid at the attack propels this richly extracted well-balanced classic Syrah, with black plum, blackberry, cassis, and rosemary, elements across the palate. Firm tannins hold the experience in balance without being austere. The long balanced finish hangs on until finally giving way to a silky hint of toasted nuts.
The second Syrah was from a vineyard a bit farther north; Jack Jones Vineyard 2002 Syrah. This vineyard has a very different soil. The soil is made up of stony gravel soil that does not hold a lot of water. The plants struggle more in this terroir. The wine was very different from the first wine although both were made in the same manner. You could definitely tell the effect of the soil. The wine was more minerally and more interesting. I enjoyed the mineral flavors along with more chocolate. It was a nice contrast from the first wine. The tasting notes from the web site:
The 2002 vintage was a concentrated vintage and this is a big wine. The wine starts a bit shy but opens with time in the glass with a savory nose dominated by bay leaf, rosemary, ripe blueberries, and fresh roasted coffee. A warm, weighty attack is full of blackberry, black plum, grilled meats, dark chocolate, and mocha notes. A high glycerin, almost creamy, mid-palette unfolds to a lingering, sexy cocoa, port-like finish.
The final Syrah was my favorite, Clifton Hills Vineyard 2002 Syrah. This syrah was made differently from the first two and has some Viognier blended in. To me, this was the closest to the style that I like. It had a lot of spicy flavors along with chocolate, coffee and berry fruit. It won a double gold at the 2005 San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition. I bought a bottle of this one. The tasting notes from the web site:
The 2002 vintage was a concentrated vintage and this is a big wine. One look at this wine and you know you’re in for a ride. Dark ruby with a purple edge, it appears viscous in the glass. The nose is a savory mix of cedar, citrus, and berry. As it opens, you begin to experience nutmeg, allspice, and coffee. A warm, weighty attack is full of blackberry, black plum, grilled meats, dark chocolate, and mineral notes. A high glycerin, almost creamy, mid-palate unfolds to a lingering, sexy cocoa, port-like finish.
It was a very nice evening spent tasting some great wines. It was lovely having the opportunity to get to know the wine maker and learn how the wines were made.